AMD Awarded $12.6 Million for Exascale Computing Research

The federal money is part of the government's effort to push the development of exascale computing, which officials say is crucial to scientific research and economic growth.

Advanced Micro Devices is getting $12.6 million as part of the federal government€™s larger push toward exascale computing.

The money to AMD is part of the federal Extreme-Scale Computing Research and Development Program, known as €œFastForward.€ The program is jointly funded by the Department of Energy€™s (DOE€™s) Office of Science and the National Nuclear Security Administration and is aimed at creating partnerships between technology companies, academic institutions and the government to speed up the development of the technology that will lead to exascale computing.

Officials with tech firms and the government see exascale computing as a key next step in not only the high-performance computing (HPC) space, but a critical component of future scientific and defense research and a catalyst for future economic growth.

Exascale supercomputers are expected to be 1,000 times faster than existing petaflop supercomputers, offering the speed and computing power required for increasingly complex workloads. Applications such as modeling regional climate change or simulating the effects of a new drug on the human heart require computers with the capacity to rapidly process enormous volumes of data. The most advanced applications are beyond the capability of today€™s commercially available computers.

Officials at tech firms have said that exascale computing should come by the end of the decade.

Exascale computing has become a goal of both the government and tech companies. President Barack Obama last year pushed for $126 million in the 2012 federal budget for the DOE for exascale computing. During a keynote address in November 2011 at the SC 11 supercomputing conference, Nvidia President and CEO Jen-Hsun Huang called exascale computing "the next frontier for our industry,€ and said a key challenge will be power efficiency.

€œSupercomputing is now power-limited, just like a cell phone, just like a tablet," Huang said. "This is our gravity. €¦ Energy efficiency is our single critical imperative."

The $12.6 million that AMD was awarded July 11 will focus on two areas, according to officials with the chip maker. About $9.6 million will be used for processor-related research, with the other $3 million targeting memory-related research.

€œThis award from the DOE will fund critical research and development required to enable high-performance, power-efficient exascale systems,€ Alan Lee, AMD€™s corporate vice president of research and advanced development, said in a statement. €œAdditionally, AMD will undertake work to drive advances in memory bandwidth and communication speed, which are essential for heterogeneous architecture, exascale-class supercomputers with thousands of processors.€

AMD officials have been pushing to make their Opteron server chips a larger presence in the HPC systems space, including ramping up the core count and improving the power consumption. AMD processors are in 24 of the world€™s 100 fastest supercomputers, according to the latest Top500 list issued last month. That includes the sixth-fastest system, the Jaguar supercomputer at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The Jaguar is an Opteron-based XK6 supercomputer from Cray.

The DOE announced last fall that 19,200 Opteron 6200 chips will be used when Cray upgrades the Jaguar supercomputer, a system that will be named Titan. Scheduled to be fully operational next year, Titan is expected to offer a peak performance of more than 20 petaflops. A petaflop equals 1 quadrillion floating-point calculations per second.

A DOE official said working with tech companies like AMD will be crucial in the development of exascale computing.

€œA key to successfully developing next-generation HPC capabilities is bringing together the know-how and best minds of industry leaders and national labs to work on this grand challenge,€ Thuc Hoang of DOE€™s National Nuclear Security Administration said in a statement.